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Wednesday, November 19, 1997 Published at 10:16 GMT

Special Report

All-female crew make up for lost time
image: [ Emma Westmacott in Cape Town shortly before joining her crew mates on EF Education ]
Emma Westmacott in Cape Town shortly before joining her crew mates on EF Education

British sailor Emma Westmacott joined the crew of EF Education for the rigorous second leg of the round the world race and is currently helping her team mates to relaunch their challenge.

The all-female crew finished well down the leader board after the first leg and had a slow start to the second leg from Cape Town but have now pulled back some time on the rest of the fleet.

Emma, 29, has been sailing since she was six years old and is an experienced ocean racer. She will need all her skills and endurance on this 4,600-mile leg to Fremantle in western Australia as the boats cross some of the most inhospitable seas on the planet.

Emma has sailed in the Southern Ocean before and said before leaving England that she thought the crew could improve on their position. They are now more than half way to the finish and just 12 miles behind Merit Cup in eighth place.

In the first of her reports from the Southern Ocean for BBC News online, Emma describes life on board and the crew's successful attempt to catch up with the rest of the fleet.

"I must say this hardly seems like the Southern Ocean. We spent the first four days light air sailing and battling through high pressure systems in shorts and T-shirts.

"It was very frustrating to see the fleet get away from us to start with. Light air sailing is the hardest in terms of concentration, and tactics are crucial - making the right decisions so as to avoid excess manoeuvres and sail changes which always slow the process down.

"We have had our challenge set out for us from the start and we're inching our way back in there.

[ image: EF Education battles with two of the fleet at Cape Town]
EF Education battles with two of the fleet at Cape Town
"At the back of the fleet you get the new breeze first and can use it to your advantage to work around the others.

"Over the last 12 hours we have taken a substantial amount out of some of the guys, knocking the 80-mile lead that Chessie racing had on us down to 12, taken Silk Cut down to 20-odd miles and likewise to a lot of the others.

"The mood on board is full of fun and adventure and everyone gets fired up with the progress.

"The crew are great. I joined two days before the start of this leg and knew two of the girls well. I have been welcomed into the crew - a common goal will always bring people together.

"Over the next few days we are looking at sitting on the front of this approaching low and experiencing some stronger winds. We had been expecting the stronger winds before now.

"The temperature has dropped and full gear is a must for everyone. There is not much showing except the eyes!

"The nature lovers are enjoying the bird life, with four albatrosses circling us most of the time, and an abundance of petrels of every variety.

"We have had dolphins on the bow, and now just passing Prince Edward island to the south of us we are on the lookout for killer whales.

"As I write, the breeze is freshening on deck and we are cracking off to gain more speed and catch up the rest of the fleet."


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